August 17, 2016

Ten four


It’s the hellhounds’ tenth birthday today.  TEN YEARS OLD.  DOUBLE DIGITS.  How time flies whether you’re having fun or not.

Family portrait

Family portrait

That’s a cat, off to the right.  Which is why their leads are still on.  They (conveniently) really dislike running with their leads bumbling along behind them.*  The churchyard has two resident cats:  the nice one and the troll.  This is the troll.  Also Chaos is lame and has the brain of a burrito, and if the troll started doing his evil troll dance Chaos would be after him and those of us who live with him are already frelling hostage to his drama queen performances–I’m sure he is genuinely lame, but how lame might be open to interpretation–I do not want to live with him after he’s done himself in worse by chasing an evil troll who, having achieved his nefarious aim, has gone over the churchyard wall.

And, because I managed to miss Pav’s fourth birthday earlier in the month, here is an exemplary photo of a hellterror sunbathing:

She might like a tummy rub

She might like a tummy rub

Extra chicken jerky all round tonight.  Chicken jerky because it’s about the only thing in the known universe that the hellhounds consider an exciting edible.

* * *

* The hellterror does not care.  CAT!  CAT!  CATCATCATCATCAT!  There’s a lead with a big fat plastic handle that is almost as big as I am dragging after me because the hellgoddess lost the plot for two seconds?^  NEVER MIND.  I SHALL LEVITATE.

^ Possibly because she was pursuing some other plot, and that hand was flexing in a sword-holding, reins-grasping, steering-wheel gripping, spell-casting or villain-strangling manner.

Talking to my husband

Maybe they thought I was talking to the rose.

                                                                                                                Maybe they thought I was talking to the rose.*

I got caught talking to Peter for the first time the other day. That I know of, I mean.  I’ve been talking to him in the churchyard, of course, since the unnecessarily grand ashes box went into the ground, what, is it three weeks ago now?  Even if it’s no more than hey, how’s it going, as some hurtle-shift or other passes at speed because I’m late, as usual, for the next thing, whatever it is, I still take a loop off the main path to say hello and check how the current rose is doing.*  So half the town may already be aware that the Dickinson widow chats to her husband, but then, she’s a little loony, maybe it’s being an American?**

But the first time I noticed being caught talking to Peter was a few days ago.  When I told this to a friend she said drily, who was more embarrassed?  Well, at the time, I would have said the honours were about even *** but by the time I was taking the hellhounds and my red face briskly in the opposite direction I was thinking wait a minute.  This is a churchyard. This must happen all the time!  People talking to their departed beloveds† in cemeteries!††  Meanwhile I’d better get used to being caught because it’s going to happen again.  And again.  My friend suggested that part of my discoverers’ shock was just that this was happening immediately off the main, well travelled, path through the churchyard—there’s perhaps an unconscious assumption that people who are going to speak to the dead are going to do it in the tucked-away parts of churchyards.  And this churchyard has tucked-away places.  I originally thought I’d want to have him in one of those, but I changed my mind.†††  I like him where I’m going to walk past him every day.  And my friend—who knew Peter—agreed.  That’s the path he walked on every day to go buy his newspaper.‡  And he was always interested in what was going on, what people were doing.  It’s a good spot.


* * *

* This is supposed to be a CAPTION.

* Some day it will NOT be a rose. Some day.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Probably not next week either.  Although if our little village florist ever had really fabulous sunflowers the day the current rose needs replacing I might well go for a fabulous sunflower . . . which would probably look very peculiar in the plastic spike-vase . . . eh.  The unexpected confusions of looking after a grave.  But it’s not like it’s something you think ahead about.  What I Will Do If I Ever Have An Important Grave to Look After.  We even knew that the statistical probability was very strong that I would be looking after his grave some day.  Did we think about it?  No.^  Also, you don’t get cut clematis the way you get cut roses—clematis are just not a cut-flower plant.  And Peter being a clematis man leaves me free to do my worst.  Which means roses.  And maybe a sunflower once a year.

^ There is an argument that Peter knew perfectly well that I would buy a spike-vase and put roses in it, and didn’t see the need to say anything.

** The country that has elected Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for the presidency, greater, hair-tearing, teeth-grinding, shrieking proof of national looniness is not possible.

I’m also a fantasy writer of course, but I don’t think most of the locals pay this any attention. My being an American is in your face—or your ear—the minute I say anything.  Most of them don’t task me with Trump, however.  Maybe they can see the blood in my eye if they unwarily attempt to bring politics into the conversation.  Maybe they just realise I must be a liberal, I wear All Stars.

People are funny though.^ There are people I would have expected to phone me occasionally or put a postcard through the door or something, saying ‘thinking of you, hope you’re doing okay’ or thereabouts.  I don’t need casseroles^^ and I don’t go to parties^^^ but contact might have been nice.  Which in some cases isn’t happening.  Oh.  Okay.  It’s not like I don’t have friends who are keeping a close eye on me^^^^.  The cold draught I constantly feel is about absence of Peter, not absence of friends and friendly support.^^^^^  And some people I would not have expected to take an interest, do.  Still.  Odd.

^ Make a note.

^^ Which would almost certainly be full of things I can’t eat anyway

^^^ Except I am going to one on Wednesday. A cocktail party. A large cocktail party.  I have clearly taken leave of my few remaining senses.  But it’s being held at the beautiful old country house where we had Peter’s memorial and I want to go back there for the first time since then and get it over with.  And it is a beautiful old country house with glorious parkland, and I shall wear All Stars and having had my token glass of . . . mineral water and said hello to at least three people, I shall go for a walk before Wolfgang takes me home.

^^^^ YES I’M EATING. But as I’ve said before, eliminate meat, sugar and alcohol—and butter, my one remaining dairy product—and it suddenly becomes surprisingly difficult not to lose weight.  Especially if you were a serious sugar junkie, which I was.+  Aggravated in my case by the fact that I’m an ex-fat person who learnt to deal with the fact that I gain weight easily and had what I thought was an ineradicable addiction to chocolate and other sweet things, including remarkable amounts of sugar in my remarkably strong black tea, AND champagne.  So my mindset for the last forty years has been the ‘push yourself away from the table while you’re still hungry I mean NOW’ thing to make room for the sugar and the chocolate and the butter and the champagne, and a cemented-in for additional security mindset is HARD to change after forty years.  So I keep having these conversations with myself that go, wait, you’re not going to eat ALL those nuts, are you?  Nuts are VERY HIGH CALORIE.  —YES. EAT THE NUTS.  EAT ALL THE NUTS.  YOU CAN FRELLING USE THE CALORIES.  Wait, no, no, you aren’t going to eat an entire avocado, are you?  YES.  I AM.  I AM GOING TO EAT AN ENTIRE AVOCADO.

+ And yes, I thought I was going to endure the tortures of the damned, eliminating sugar. I didn’t.  I get a little WISTFUL# sometimes but major cravings and all that?  Nope.  My body I guess was just ready.  It’s a lot more of a grown-up than the rest of me.

# You know what I really miss? Being able to treat myself.  A hard afternoon sweating through the ‘two for one’ table at Waterstones and I want a sit-down and a cup of tea before I go home.  Green tea is now fashionable enough that it’s usually not too difficult finding a tea shop that serves green.  But I can’t do the sticky cake any more.  And it’s not the cake I miss nearly so much, it’s the treat. If you follow me.  At least if I go with someone they can have the sticky cake and the shop needn’t feel it’s wasting its table on me.

^^^^^ WHICH I TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY, GROVELLINGLY APPRECIATE.  This directed at anyone reading this blog who is wondering sadly if I’m ever going to acknowledge their card/letter/email.  Yes.  You’re on the list.   Eight months is nothing, I’m afraid, to a disorganised, ME-riddled loony.+

+ I probably shouldn’t admit this, but speaking of disorganised loonies, yesterday I discovered a little cache of letters I wrote in . . . March.  That ahem didn’t get sent ahem.  Sigh.

*** I don’t know whether it’s a good or a bad thing that I’ve never seen them before. It’s tourist season and it’s a pretty churchyard.  I was adding local colour. And the hellhounds are very decorative.  If I want an actual chat I take the hellhounds.  Pav isn’t so great at hanging out.  Although she has recently taken to hucklebutting like a dervish in the little clear space in front of Peter’s grave, which I hope he is finding entertaining.

† Of whatever kind, variety, relationship or flavour

†† It happens in the graveyard where Miri’s grandfather is buried, in Hellhound.

††† And fortunately the vicar agreed.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, lovely vicar.

‡ My little cul de sac is kind of around the corner from the churchyard, although it’s a short corner. Third House really is slap on the other side of the churchyard from the centre of town.  Have I told you that one of the weirder comments from a potential house buyer was that she really liked the house ‘but it was too near the churchyard’? What? She reads too much Stephen King or something?

Domestic Dramas

The hellterror broke my favourite bowl today. Her head is on a stake in the back garden.


Actually I’m thinking about tying the stake to the railing at the front of the cottage. If Damien, hairy* four-legged scion of the Black Goat of the Woods, wants to have hysterical barking meltdowns every time I walk in or out of the cottage or the Lodge, I figure let’s give him something to melt down about.

This particular bowl, unlike most of the stuff I’ve been breaking without help lately, is relatively old in my life; I bought it probably pushing forty years ago, on holiday with my oldest and best Maine friend—who died a few years ago, way too long before time.  We were on Prince Edward Island because she was an Anne of Green Gables fanatic, and this was one of those local-artists’-cooperative shops, dripping with highly desirable things.  I bought a bowl.  It is—was—a huge salad bowl, suitable for families of twelve, or for one slightly crazed paleo vegan alkaline raw foodie sort of.**  It will be horribly, horribly missed, and since some of it shattered, I doubt there are enough pieces to epoxy back together, but I will save them and give it a try some decade in the future because I am like that.  Meanwhile what am I supposed to do for a SALAD BOWL?  Alfrick, who as an experienced spiritual director has a great wealth of uplifting suggestions for all occasions of profound anguish, recommends that I engage with the prospect of The Quest for the New Perfect Salad Bowl.  This man knows me too well.

* * *

* He looks like a frelling floor mop. Not that I’m prejudiced or anything.  I have told you that five new barking dogs have moved into my immediate neighbourhood?  But only Damien is hellspawn.

** Ref what a person like this eats when she’s coming off a nasty bout of stomach flu^: your metabolism or your ability to cope or whatever changes when you drastically change your diet.  In hindsight I’ve always been lactose intolerant but I got a lot more lactose intolerant as soon as I went off dairy, although going off dairy was one of the best decisions of my life^^, and I could hear my body going YAAAAAAAAAAAAY while my mind and mouth were going waaaaaaaah ice cream cheese eggnog whipped cream waaaaaaaaah. I’m pretty sure I’ve told the blog that I used to have ice cream blow outs once or twice a year for a while but I had to stop because the hangover the next day, in which my entire physical being seemed to be inflamed, became seriously not worth it.  I’ve been a vegetarian only a little over a year but the very idea of beef broth, for example, one of the post-flu options suggested on the forum, makes me feel extremely queasy, and while I used to be a chicken-soup-for-what-ails you person, I know I couldn’t face it now.  Dead flesh?  ANIMAL FAT? Ewwwwww. And Saltines, I’ve been off wheat for yonks—I even take gluten-free wafers at Communion—and lately comprehensively off all cereal grains.  Saltines would kill me.  I don’t doubt beef broth and Saltines work a treat for the person who posted;  it’s what your body is set up to recognise as food^^^.  I agree with those of you who have said that when you’re ill the rules change.  It’s how they change and what they change to I haven’t figured out yet from the vegan paleo nutter^^^^ view.

^ And yes, it was so brief and so violent I thought about food poisoning too, but in the first place—er—the order of occurrence of certain categories of personal violence followed the stomach-flu pattern rather than the food-poisoning pattern. In the second place I can’t face the idea that it was food poisoning, because that would mean It Happened in My Kitchen, and while generally speaking housework is not my thing, I’m fairly paranoid about kitchen hygiene because my gut is so not a thing of beauty and a joy forever. And in the third place, Alfrick says there is a twenty-four hour stomach bug going around. Ah the many delights of conversation with one’s spiritual advisor.  And the reassurance about the big things he can provide.

^^ Second to moving to England and marrying Peter.  Sigh.  And I’m already frelling failing as a gravekeeper.  That first dark red rose lasted an amazingly long time.  It lasted so long in fact that I didn’t believe it was lasting that long, and had bought a second spike’s worth+ and stuck it in the ground . . . and then the red rose went on and on and on, bless it, and the second spike, which had gone in eight days after the first, lasted approximately ONE day after I took the dark red one out, and this happened to be Saturday, and because I had Cecilia here, I didn’t notice till afternoon, and didn’t make it to the florist’s before they shut.++  So, because, after all, this is Peter, and the next day was Sunday when small town florists do not open for business, I committed the ultimate act of love and cut one of my own roses. Saturday evening it was a big fat happy bright pink rose with a lot of scent, which as most of you will know florists’ roses almost never have, and less than twenty-four hours later it was already over. Arrrrrrrgh.  So tomorrow I will go back to the florist.

+ I have two of those spike-vase things so I can do the swapping more easily. #

# Okay, really I have three. Because I’m like that.  But hey, they’re cheap.


# Admetus thinks I suffer from road rage. I think he’s led a sheltered life.  Cecilia just laughed.~  I was thinking about this.  My girlfriends just laugh.  Maybe it’s a testosterone thing?  A sort of anti testosterone thing with blokes who don’t think a good evening out is to get tanked down t’pub and have a punch-up with whoever is available.

~ Which was noble of her since we barely made her train and we didn’t know at that point that we would. But we did make her train.  Possibly the fates were rewarding her for being noble.

^^^ News flash: the hellterror has decided that lettuce is not food. Shock and dismay of family and friends.  Film at eleven.  She learnt a long time ago that when I’m doing something with a knife and a chopping board there’s food involved, and the way I now frelling eat, doing something at the sink with a salad spinner and a chopping board is most of the time I’m not reading, writing, hurtling, gardening or pretending to sleep.  I NEVER used to let dogs mill around my feet and beg for scraps, but many rules have been changed in the era of non-eating hellhounds, and what you do with one hellcritter you pretty much have to do with all hellcritters, or at least choose your battles and be prepared to be extremely creative about setting up different protocols that the suspicious resident hellmob will actually wear. I never even tried to convince the hellterror that she wasn’t allowed to hope for falling items of an interesting nature.  I am not entirely stupid.  Anyway, the  hellhounds, of course, rarely can be bothered, now that I’m never grappling with anything that smells attractive, but the hellterror is always there, radiating hopefulness.  She likes broad beans.  She likes all green beans, French, runner, whatever.  She likes peas, both sugar snap and the ones you shell.  She likes all the brassicas, as previously mentioned:  she eats them RAW which I mostly can’t quite manage.  She adores carrots.  And she likes apple.  She gets a lot of apple while I’m dealing with things she either scorns—this is a short list, but it now includes all lettuce—or that she can’t have, like avocado, or that I’m not going to let her have, like frelling frelling frelling salmon, which is Terribly Good for You+ but costs not one but several bombs if you buy either wild or responsibly farmed++.  We’ve just had one of our little hellgoddess/hellterror interactions+++ where I drop a bit of apple which frelling bounces and she can’t get at it.  FRANTIC SCRATCHING NOISES.  I extend a bare foot to retrieve the thing and she can’t wait and is frenziedly licking my foot which is not helping the extraction process.  THERE.  VICTORY.

+ So no, I’m not a true vegan either. Life is short, and eating fish makes it simpler when you’re trying to live in a world where no one knows what ‘vegan’ means and if you say ‘vegetarian’ they all go ‘cheese sauce.’  And if you say, no, no cheese sauce they get all worried and say, then how do you get your PROTEIN?  Well I used to get it by chewing up people who annoyed me, but . . .

++ Although the hellmob does receive the lovely greasy scrapings at the bottom of either the tin or the baking dish because . . . because . . . um. Because.  But even the hellhounds may open one eye for salmon scrapings.  That’s ‘may’.

+++ All right, her head is not outdoors on a stake. But it was a near thing. She doesn’t get it about the bowl, but she gets it that she is not my favourite person at the minute and is therefore sleeping Very Determinedly at my feet and next to the Aga in spite of the weather.  The hellhounds are at the far end of the kitchen somewhat sheltered from the Aga by the desk-island, and with a nice cool breeze coming through the cracked-open front door.

^^^^ Yes I eat nuts. I eat lots of nuts.



Here’s a question for you: if you have become a sort of vegan-paleo-alkaline-raw-foodie person, what the jolly doodah do you eat coming off a savage bout of stomach flu?  And I mean savage. It only lasted about six hours, thank you God, but I was a double-ended geysering hellhound in all ways except fur, long pointy nose and long tail for the duration.  I was certainly walking on all fours because I couldn’t stand up:  the world spun quite amazingly, and my heart was going about four hundred beats a minute.  Throwing up always makes my heart race* but it usually slows down again.  In this case it went on trying to shake me off the bed.

I crept downstairs at one point because there was quite a lot of moaning going on: the urgency had come upon me very suddenly and I hadn’t got the hellmob out for any more than a bit of grass on the street corner—my garden has no grass, except the stuff that flies over the wall and colonises my potted plants, and dogs need grass.  Ask any dog.  But I’d been going about indoors briskly doing stuff because I had a friend coming today, Saturday, I am describing the scene from yesterday, Friday, and, okay, I could have done some housework earlier in the week but . . . well, in the first place I didn’t, because I don’t, and in the second place since the floor needs sweeping/hoovering again approximately the minute I unplug the blasted hoover and jam it back into its current corner** because my resident fur factories are never off line, there’s not a lot of point of trying to do it ahead of time.  I’ll just have to do it again.  Which is inefficient, right?  There were still fresh fur eddies in the draft from the door this morning when I brought my friend home  Sigh.

And then, you know, there’s all that other stupid stuff that housework consists of.*** And I’d been hoping to get back out into the garden again—did I tell you I have hauled two entire Wolfgang loads of garden detritus off to the dump?  Chiefly consisting of nettles, but other weeds and some rose-prunings did appear.† This is only the beginning.  And, erm, it’s already frelling August.††  I was going to get my garden sorted this summer.†††  And I had a friend coming!  I didn’t want to lock the kitchen door and hide the key and say offhandedly, oh, you don’t want to go out there!  ANYWAY.  I crept downstairs at one point when the moaning was reaching something of a pitch, opened the garden door, left it open, which I never do unless I’m there to supervise,‡ and crawled back upstairs again.

Well, I didn’t get out into the garden. I also missed my appointment with my estate agent to discuss the Letting of Third House.  I missed Friday afternoon handbells.  When I could finally stand upright again I just about managed to do a quick stiff-brush thing on the stairs, which, due to a little backlist-box problem, won’t really accommodate a hoover at present.  And I hurtled the mob.  Not nearly well enough, according to the mob, but I told them they were lucky to get out at all. And I had COOKED green beans for supper and they stayed down.  Yaay.

And it was great to see my friend today.  This is someone I haven’t seen in years because we’ve both been having adventures—not all of hers have been desirable either—but she’s the kind of friend you just pick up with again like you saw each other last week.  I even ate lunch successfully.  And took her for a hike over gorgeous late summer Hampshire countryside without falling down.‡‡  And drove her back to the train where we promised not to lose touch again.  But I’m way too brain dead to work tonight, so I thought I’d write a blog.

* * *

* Things You Would Be Very Happy Not to Know About Yourself

** I have still not found the perfect storage space for a hoover, which is an awkward, bulky object, in this house with no storage AND covered in bookshelves on all the walls and piles of books in front of all the bookshelves. There’s the attic, of course, but if it disappears into the attic I really WILL never use it again.  Haul it up and down my narrow little rail-free ladder stairs and back up again?  Never happen.

*** As I have often said before, I don’t hate housework^, I hate the time it takes.

^ Except hoovering. I HATE hoovering.  I’d rather be on my knees with a Patented Pet Hair Remover and a stiff brush.  Which is indeed what I usually do.

† Note that you can still be stung by a nettle that has been frelling dead for a frelling week, lying on the ground waiting to be bagged up. I assume I don’t have to tell you how I know this.  Also, nettles hide. As I say, most of eight gigantic bags of green stuff were nettles.^  I TOOK OUT A LOT OF NETTLES.^^  But the minute I go back indoors again and look out my kitchen window THERE ARE NETTLES.  I just blitzed that area! I exclaim in outrage.  No.  You didn’t.  Hahahahahahahaha, say the nettles.^^^

^ Although the last bag or two contained quite a lot of this small variegated-leaf tree put in by my predecessor, so it is no doubt rare and admirable and I don’t appreciate it properly. Phineas, my poor neighbour, came hesitantly up to me about a week ago and explained humbly that this thing had colonised the roof of his conservatory to the extent that he was beginning to worry about said roof maintaining its present desirable state of leakproofness, not to mention that my tree was shutting out the sunlight to the dismay of the huge planters of geraniums that live in the conservatory.  Oops.  Now it’s true that my garden has become even more of a jungle the last year or two but slightly in my defence in this case this is a very enthusiastic tree+ and since it was growing forward over its end of my garden in a very liberal manner and I can’t actually see over the wall to Phineas’ conservatory roof I had no idea that it was doing exactly the same in the other direction.  Arrgh.  I’ve hacked it back some, but more is necessary, and first you have to get THROUGH the stuff on my side to reach the stuff on the other side, which involves being poked in the eye, clawed, strangled, hair-yanked, and the delightful experience of repeated disgorgings of scratchy leaves down the back of the neck.  ARRRRGH.

+ It must be part nettle

^^ And I have the scars to show for it. According to some of the Birkenstocks-and-beards natural medicine sites, nettle stings are good for rheumatism like bee stings are.  I’m allergic to bee stings, so that’s out.  I’ve been on the anti-rheumatism diet for about twelve years because it works, but I was thinking, if I keep a corner of my (tiny) garden sacred to nettles, if I went and rolled in these occasionally could I eat a tomato?  Sigh.  It would have to be a very good tomato.

^ The really bizarre thing is that I’m kind of fond of nettles. All part of my yen for self-torture I suppose.  But a lot of weeds just make me snarl:  creeping buttercup.  SNARL.  Ground elder.  SNARL.  And Japanese anemone. EXTRA SNARL.  You gardeners are about to tell me that Japanese anemones are lovely, graceful and entirely desirable garden plants. No they’re not.  They’re frelling takeover frelling thugs. THEY’RE WEEDS.  Like frelling crocosmia, another so-called desirable garden plant.  Rip out where seen.  I don’t actually want a lot of nettles around—they, you know, sting, and they aren’t exactly beautiful—but maybe I’m just remembering that the presence of nettles means you have a nice healthy garden, that they’re good for butterflies, that you can eat nettles+, or that as an herbal tincture they’re useful for a lot of what ails you.  But whatever.  I kind of like them.  This doesn’t stop me tearing them out.  And getting stung spectacularly because when they’re cross, and pulling them up does tend to make them cross, they will sting you through your clothing.++

+ You can eat ground elder too but I’d rather not. Nettles are pretty reasonable, and I positively like nettle tea.

++ Reasons to be glad you’re wearing glasses instead of contacts: being lashed across the face by the eight-foot nettle you didn’t notice when you were pulling up some little ones at the eight-footer’s ankles. Owwww. Also, nettles across the scalp?  Um, if it’s good for rheumatism, will it make your hair grow?

†† How did that happen? May was last week.

††† I think I say this every summer. This summer, however, I’m here all the time.  On the other hand, this summer, I’m spending a lot more time lying on the floor in a state of ME stasis than usual.  There’s just about enough floor space left in the kitchen for me to lie down on it, if I contort a little.  The problem with lying on the sofa is that the hellmob expects to join me, and there are days when I can’t face being lain on by a hellmob with twenty-four or forty-eight elbows attached.  If I lie on my bed, as previously observed, there will be moaning, but if I lie on the kitchen floor, it’s like, oh, hi, and we can all kind of curl up together.  The hellterror is especially pleased because generally speaking she is expected to keep her attentions to herself since she is very . . . attentive.  But remind me to tell you about my shrinking kitchen floor.

‡ The creativity of dogs, when presented with a garden, is much undervalued.  Especially by the owner of said garden.  Who furthermore will be cleaning up the kitchen floor of uningestables experimentally ingested.

‡‡ Granted I’m perfectly capable of falling down without any help from stomach flu aftermath totteriness.

Life is like that*

It started raining in the five minutes between bringing hellhounds in, taking my raincoat off because it’s HOT and it’s not raining, and furthermore it’s not SUPPOSED to rain, this slender pause including hastily checking that my next organic-grocery delivery is not too deranged, because my deadline was midnight and I tend to get a little carried away about how much I’m going to put through my juicer* this week and probably needed to halve my beet order and quarter my carrot order**, and taking the hellterror out.  I was so not expecting it to be raining we were halfway to the main road before I realised I couldn’t see out of my glasses*** and my hair was sticking to my scalp.  By which time I couldn’t be frelling arsed to go back† so we went on:  the hellterror doesn’t like the rain any more than the hellhounds do, and as soon as nature’s demands were satisfied I’d be dragging her on for a bit of exercise for exercise’s sake while she tried to head for home††.  We were in no danger of drowning.  In an increasingly sodden state we passed under an awning where another damp, un-raincoated figure was addressing himself to his smartphone.  Calling a friend for a lift in bad weather doesn’t work when you’re hurtling your domestic fauna.  Hey, great weather, he said.  It started raining in the five minutes between taking the first dog shift indoors and taking the second shift out, I said.  He grinned (maybe his friend had with the car had said yes.  Maybe he was placating the crazy old lady with too many dogs).  Life is like that, he said.

* * *

*This should have gone up last night but I am having Extreme Computer Problems, to the extent that I really don’t know what to do.  Raphael was just here today, bringing my supposedly-mended ultrabook back and taking away the seriously insane old laptop that I’d been using in its absence and I can still barely make this one do anything.  If this post is not up to standard I can plead extenuating circumstances. –disintegrating ed

* My juicer and I are no longer best friends. When Alcestis first demonstrated hers she gave me beet, apple and carrot juice, and her juicer, which is the same one I then went home and bought^, calmly and elegantly chomped the doodah out of what she put through it, and produced a sparkling cascade of perfect juice. Mine, when presented with a series of hard things like apples and beets and carrots and sweet potatoes^^ has a tendency to buck like a rodeo bronc and spew a thin spray of juice through its not-quite-blast-proof joins. Beet juice STAINS. The bucking also tends to slam it backwards into the row of books which adorn the edge of my one ex-usable countertop, which has become my desk, which is not popular either.  I now wrap the freller in dishtowels and hold on while it’s juicing.   There tends to be language.

^ This was three or so years ago, when Alcestis was still walking and doing things like her own juicing, and I still thought my money problems were no worse than usual.

^^ Yes of course I cut them up. Am cutting them up in smaller and smaller pieces too.

** I’m still experimenting with how much raw cabbage I can hide inside the (raw) beets, the (raw) carrots and the (raw) sweet potatoes. I get a little lip-curly at these shiny fashion-conscious smoothies for health!!!! sites that suggest you slip in two or three raw spinach leaves with your mango, your banana, your pineapple, your yogurt and your half a cup of honey and you’ll never know they’re there! I like raw spinach.  All rational people like raw spinach.^  You want hard core, I suggest raw cabbage.  I, one of whose food groups is broccoli, still prefer it steamed long enough to get rid of the brassica bite. And cabbage . . . I’m not sure how this works out in terms of comparative quantities and proportions^^ but I can make one medium-sized cabbage disappear in a quart of juice—I drink a pint and put the other pint in the refrigerator for the next day.  According to the purists you should juice every day because all the freshiest freshness goes away almost immediately.  I think these people have staff.  I could use a second pair of hands to keep the frelling juicer under control.

^ All right, all right, most rational people.  I say nothing about cooked spinach.#

# And yes, spinach can be cooked in ways that are not slimy and disgusting. But what a waste.

^^ I spent way too much time this afternoon, when I should have been writing MMMPH or MMMMPH or AAAAAAAAUGGGGHHHHH, trying to put together a hellmob food order, now that I have made a thing of beauty# of the canine larder corner and discovered that I’m all out of stuff I thought I had lots of and have tins and bags and bales and boxes of stuff I keep buying because I can’t find it so I think I’ve run out.  Arrrgh.##  I use several different critter-supply sites because I really get off on making myself a drooling psycho hag, and because any faint quiver of interest from the hellhounds in a food or food-related substance and I’m on line researching.  And every site lists its quantities and comparative cost rates differently AND every frelling brand of frelling critter food lists its quantities and comparative cost rates differently I HATE MATHS I HATE MATHS and let’s not even approach the extremely embattled topic of INGREDIENTS LISTS.###  But Pooka was smoking from iPhone calculator overuse, and that’s only the numbers I think I can translate enough to plug them in to see how or if they talk to each other.

# Pink, purple and turquoise plastic beauty. There’s also a rather nice table half buried in there which I keep thinking I should extract and put somewhere it can be admired, instead of ruining its delicate profile by making its legs into a pen for 15-mg bags of kibble, which are, you know, dumpy. But when I say put somewhere, where, exactly, do I mean?, put somewhere.

## Next time: goldfish.

### I don’t want to know how fabulous and wonderful your flaming whatsit dog food is! I want to know WHAT’S IN IT!  I want to know EXACTLY what’s in it!!!  One hellcritter’s hypoallergenic is another hellcritter’s owner getting up three times in the night and it should have been four times! It also pitches me into rabid meltdown mode when I’m looking at an ingredients list and it has fu—fugging CORN SYRUP and/or SALT in it.  WHAT THE FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING FRELL.   Let’s force our dependent critters to develop the same stupid harmful addictions that we’ve given ourselves.  Dogs don’t know from sugar! Don’t freaking TEACH THEM. Also . . . WHY???  Neither the corn syrup nor the salt is going to be a substantial enough part of the treat, since it’s usually treats that are toxic-ified up this way, to make a profit difference to the manufacturer, so WHY???  I get it, kind of, that baby food is often spiced and sweetened and salted up because mums taste it and might think it’s too bland for their precious darlings who are going to grow up to rule the world and need to get a head start on the corporate dining thing, but DOG FOOD?  Okay, I tried Alpo when I was a kid~, but generally speaking we DON’T taste our dog food, do we?  DO WE?  Especially (let’s say) the dried, smoked, salted and sugared . . . um, leftover innards and genitalia of critters whose more-admissible-in-polite-society parts do mostly land on human dinner plates?  ARRRRRRRRRRGH.

~ This could perhaps explain a lot. How many of you out there tried Alpo when you were kids and have grown up Strange?

*** My new glasses, just by the way.  I’ve needed a new prescription since I got the first ‘come in for your eye test and discover you’re turning into an octopus’^ reminder letter last autumn but there were other things going on, and after Peter died my eyes went completely doolally and I didn’t want to buy new glasses and need another new prescription a fortnight later.  Especially not at these prices.  But by this summer I could barely see out of the old ones and there were some Terrifying Moments when I’d ripped my glasses off and laid them down somewhere while I got on with something held immediately under my nose because my close, I mean very close, I mean very very close, vision is still pretty good . . . and then couldn’t find them again.  My glasses, I mean.  And I am definitely in the category of not being able to see well enough to look for my glasses unless I’m already wearing them.  More Interesting Reasons Why I’m Always Late for Almost Everything,^^ Franticly Patting the Floor for Possibly Fallen Spectacles.^^^  However, this being able to see again thing takes some getting used to.  I keep making little jerks at my face every time I get the knitting out or open a book, because of course I need to take my glasses off. Erm.  No, I don’t.  I also keep trying to peer over them when the new, functional close-work strip is at the bottom of the lens, resulting in some very interesting neck-cracking up-and-down comportment.

^ Well, I’ve always had very light-sensitive skin, and lots of stuff gets worse as you get older.

^^ Except Mass with the monks. I may tear in seconds before the priest and server process . . . but I’m there.

^^^ Also, Another Excellent Reason for Having a Small House, although in These Circumstances Not Small Enough.

† Plus a dispiriting replay of the huge tragic eyes from Chaos, who has recently decided that every time I take the hellterror out it’s a personal betrayal. SHE’S LIVED WITH US FOUR YEARS AND YOU ALWAYS GO OUT FIRST.  WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM.

†† FOOOOOOOOOD.  She only gets fed immediately on return occasionally, but she doesn’t want to make a mistake if it’s one of those days.

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